WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a rice grain. The rice was created by Huazhong Agricultural University in China.

More specifically known as Huahui 1, the genetically modified grain was “engineered to express the insecticidal protein Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac. Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac,” which protects against lepidopteran insect pests of rice in China.

In a letter the FDA notified Huazhong Agricultural University that, “Based on the safety and nutritional assessment Huazhong has conducted, it is our understanding Huazhong has concluded that human and animal foods from Huahi No. 1 rice grain are not materially different in composition, safety and other relevant parameters from rice-derived human and animal food currently on the market,  and that genetically engineered Huahui No. 1 grain does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA.”

Huahui No. 1 previously passed a pesticide level purview by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stating that the grain fell under the tolerance exemption of Cry1Ac in 40 CFR 174.510.

Before marketing for human consumption or animal food derived from  Huahui 1, Huazhong will have to obtain further approval from the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In 2017 the U.S. and China actively joined economic dialogue talks to address agricultural trade, financial services, investment, and energy issues between the two countries in a new economic cooperation with a 100-day action plan. The first step in the process was seen in June when both countries agreed to allow the United States to begin commercial shipments of U.S. beef and beef products to China for the first time since 2003.

In July 2017, U.S. and China agreed upon the final details of a protocol to allow the United States to begin exporting rice to China for the first time. The new phytosanitary protocol will permit the import of U.S. milled rice into China.

USA Rice said the protocol, which is the most complex rice phytosanitary agreement the United States has ever entered into, contains an operational work plan that spells out the responsibilities of companies wishing to export in order to protect against the introduction of certain pests into China. According to the USDA, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. Since 2013, it also has been the largest importer, with imports reaching nearly 5 million tons in 2016.